LAREDO, TEXAS (KGNS) - Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that affects millions of people, a majority of which are undiagnosed.
Recently Ann sat down with a Laredo woman who's learned to live a healthy life after her diagnosis.
May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month and as a part of a special series, tonight we're sharing Corina's story.
For years she felt sick, but could never figure out why, until she got the diagnosis that changed her life.
"I tried different things and it was just a fluke how I found out", said Corina Salinas.
Salinas talks about a visit to her doctors office five years ago that changed her life.
She was in for testing for her thyroid, when she got results she wasn't expecting.
"He was going through all the results and says you've got gluten intolerance here, but don't worry about it, just keep going. So I didn't worry about it, but I continued to be sick, and I said hmm let me research", said Salinas.
That gluten intolerance would later be diagnosed as something more serious.
"I said it's just a little fraction, he says no, you're Celiac, you have Celiac"
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley and for people like Corina, causes damage to the small intestine.
"I felt like I was swollen, my stomach was swollen all the time, I guess I was inflamed"
"You're not absorbing vitamins, nutrients, even fats, minerals, and so your symptoms are from malabsorption"
Doctor Elsa Canales works with Celiac patients and says people should know the symptoms and ask to get tested.
<33:48 we used to think it was not so prevalent, but now we know it's a lot more prevalent, and so we're becoming more aware, and it's becoming part of our evaluation for symptoms like that.33:59>
<50:43 what are your dinners like, what do you usually cook? Fish tacos, salmon, um I have also spaghetti, gluten free spaghetti that we do. 50:56>
After Corina's diagnosis, her diet had to change, to a 100 percent gluten free diet, the only treatment for Celiac Disease.
"I don't miss it, I mean it's been so many years, I don't miss the bread, I know it's a cause and effect, I eat it, it's going to make me sick, so why go there, so I just don't"
For most Celiacs the transition is difficult -- learning what foods to avoid -- and how to read labels -- along with a lack of gluten free options.
But Corina says research and even apps on her phone -- helped her learn what she could and couldn't eat.
"I had knowledge of what I was doing at the grocery store, how I was supposed to buy things, that app was my helper"
And that knowledge has helped her take control of her own health.
"It's not gonna go away, it's chronic so understand it's forever and I 'm not the only one, other people I know in the city that are compromised just like I am, health wise, so we need to keep going"
Corina says since her diagnosis, she's worked with local grocery stores to help get more gluten free products on Laredo shelves.
Next week I sit down with the doctor who helped me get my Celiac diagnosis and I'll share that story with you.